After four high school sports seasons with open tournaments, the Maine Principals’ Association is returning to its two-thirds rule for playoff inclusion this fall.
“Of all the rule changes, the most significant is returning to the 67 percent rule for making the playoffs in Heal point sports,” said Mike Bisson, the MPA’s assistant executive director.
Because of recognition that COVID protocols would invariably lead to canceled games, the MPA opted for open tournaments starting in the spring of 2021 and continued the process throughout the 2021-22 school year.
Now, only teams that finish in the top two-thirds of Heal point standings will make the playoffs in soccer, field hockey and volleyball this fall. The same will be true for winter and spring sports that use Heal points – basketball, hockey, baseball, softball, lacrosse and tennis.
NOBLE HIGH in North Berwick has a new varsity team. The Knights will have varsity and junior varsity volleyball squads.
Noble has been a co-op partner with Sanford the past two years.
“I can’t thank (former Sanford athletic director) Gordie (Salls) enough for helping us out and allowing us to join Sanford as the volleyball interest at Noble grew,” said Noble Athletic Director Aaron Moore. “Last year, we had roughly 18 Noble girls on Sanford’s roster (JV and varsity). Looking at the growth in numbers the past two years showed a healthy increase in interest at the high school level. Not to mention, we had over 80 volleyball athletes at the middle level last year.”
Marcel Alix, who works in the high school’s tech department, will be Noble’s first head coach. He played boys’ volleyball at Mascenic High in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, where it is a state-sanctioned sport.
“I’ve always said volleyball is one of the funnest games to play and to watch, especially at a competitive level,” Alix said. “I’ve always tried to get that word out.”
Alix said he has 22 players registered to play this fall. Noble has painted volleyball lines on its refurbished gym floor and has purchased uniforms and customized pole-padding with the Noble Knights logo.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Alix said.
FOOTBALL HAS a new, quarterback-friendly, intentional grounding rule. In the past, any time a high school quarterback threw the ball and it was not near an eligible receiver, it was intentional grounding. Unlike the NFL and NCAA, it didn’t matter if the quarterback had scrambled outside the tackle box – or free-blocking zone as it’s called in high school – or if he threw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.
Wells Coach Tim Roche said he always had to teach his quarterbacks to “throw it like you were throwing it to someone.” Bonny Eagle Coach Kevin Cooper said each year the quarterbacks had to be taught the high school rule was not the same as “what they grow up seeing on TV.”
The new rule allows a quarterback to throw a pass away, including out of bounds, as long as they are outside the free-blocking zone and the pass gets back to the line of scrimmage. Spiking the ball while under duress will still be a penalty.
“I have that on my practice schedule right away, I can tell you that,” Roche said.
Another rule change is a new definition of a “chop block.” Previously, a chop block was illegal when a defender was being double-teamed with one blocker going high and another blocking below the knee. The call was made infrequently, partly because officials had a difficult time discerning if the low block was above or below the knee. Now, the low blocker must contact above the waist.
“I have a huge problem with chop blocks and the illegal chop block because there’s a huge chance of injury for a defensive lineman,” Cooper said. “Coaches aren’t teaching it, but sometimes kids are doing what they need to do to survive,” against top defensive linemen.
Bonny Eagle Varsity Maine All-State lineman and 2021 Gaziano Award winner Thomas Horton was “getting high-low blocked all the time” last season, Cooper said, “and I was constantly yelling at officials to call the chop block.” He said the call was made “usually after it had already happened a couple of times.”
Maine officials have also put coaches on notice that they will be quicker to blow a play dead when a runner’s forward progress has been stopped in an effort to curb offensive players “pushing the pile” to gain an extra yard or two. Teams won’t be penalized if they push the pile. Rather, it will be incumbent on the officials to blow the whistle, stop play, and then spot the ball accurately.
Also, zero is now a legal number for football jerseys.
FIELD HOCKEY coaches will get one timeout for the first time. It can be used any time, including overtime.
“We requested that,” said Lori Smith, who is entering her 25th season as Thornton Academy’s head coach. “They did a national survey and most of the coaches wanted that at the high school level. … In high school, we’re still at the educational level. A lot of coaches felt they needed one just in case, to settle a team down or just for a teaching moment.”
Field hockey will also have a five-goal mercy rule. If a team leads by five or more goals in the second half, the clock will keep running after goals are scored. Smith said speed of play and scoring have increased in recent years because of the self-start rule after an infraction and more artificial turf fields. That, along with a degree of competitive imbalance, has led to more games getting out of hand.
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